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posted: 2/4/2013 10:16 AM

How one suburban couple keeps the romance going

How one suburban couple keeps the flame burning

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  • Philip and Etola Zinni of Villa Park say communication, respect and maintaining a sense of humor have helped them maintain a successful 32-year marriage.

       Philip and Etola Zinni of Villa Park say communication, respect and maintaining a sense of humor have helped them maintain a successful 32-year marriage.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Philip and Etola Zinni, married for 32 years, share numerous activities, one of which includes spending time together at dog obedience classes with their poodles Autumn and Lexi.

       Philip and Etola Zinni, married for 32 years, share numerous activities, one of which includes spending time together at dog obedience classes with their poodles Autumn and Lexi.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • On their wedding day, Philip Zinni serenades his bride Etola with their favorite Platters tune.

      On their wedding day, Philip Zinni serenades his bride Etola with their favorite Platters tune.

  • Philip Zinni has long carried this note from Etola in his wallet.

      Philip Zinni has long carried this note from Etola in his wallet.

  • Not long after the Zinnis were married, they began taking scuba lessons and trips together.

      Not long after the Zinnis were married, they began taking scuba lessons and trips together.

 
By Kat Zeman
Special to the Daily Herald

When cupid first aimed at Philip and Etola, he missed.

Philip Zinni was a rugged football player at Addison Trail High School in Addison. Etola Reeser was an artist, coloring her high school canvas outside the lines of sports. Picasso wasn't in his playbook and a "linebacker" could have been a geometric tool in her paint box.

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"He was a heartthrob in high school," says Etola, a Villa Park resident who has been married to Philip for more than 30 years. "Every girl wanted to date him, except me."

It took cupid a few more years to hit his target. The football player and the artist had some friends in common and their families were acquainted for years, but Philip and Etola only exchanged a few friendly greetings during that time. The stars weren't aligned for their union -- not yet.

"We were two ships always passing by each other," says Philip.

Then one day in 1977, about five years after Philip graduated high school, cupid pulled out a bazooka and fired at close range. Philip, who was then serving in the U.S. Army, walked into his mother's house in Addison and found Etola sitting at the kitchen table chatting with his mother.

"It was like an omen. We talked for about an hour and a half and I asked her out," says Philip. "I was hoping it would be forever."

On June 15, it will be 33 years since Philip scooped Etola into his arms, placed her on top of a white piano and sang "Only You" by the Platters in front of a crowd of roughly 50 guests at their wedding reception. On Dec. 31, they celebrated the 35th anniversary of the day they shared their first kiss -- at precisely midnight while welcoming in 1978 at a new year's party at Indian Lakes Country Club in Bloomingdale.

"It knocked me off the floor," says Philip. "That one kiss started a continuous journey."

Both avid travelers, their marital journey has taken them on leisurely safaris through Africa and cultural excursions trough Europe. But for these adrenaline junkies, love isn't only found on dry land. It's often underwater.

A few years into their marriage, the lovebirds decided to go on a date and spontaneously ended up at the Underseas Scuba Center in Villa Park. That started a lifelong love affair with scuba diving. When they crave adventure, this aquatic duo enjoys exploring shipwrecks and coral reefs at various underwater locations in the Caribbean and Micronesia.

Once, while scuba diving in Micronesia, a diver asked Philip what treasure or a trophy he'd like to bring up from the shipwreck they were diving. Phil's response: "Etola."

At home in Villa Park, the couple has been known to make homemade wine and get down and dirty -- while pouring concrete that is. Philip, an architect, designed their home -- with aesthetic help from Etola. This is a couple that doesn't shy away from pouring concrete together. Visitors to their suburban love nest will find the words "I love Etola" etched in stone on their fireplace chimney.

Etola, an artist whose work can be seen locally on a wall mural at Dominick's Pizza and Pasta restaurant in Villa Park, often leaves Philip love notes or cartoon drawings in random places around the house.

To this day, Philip carries a laminated note in his wallet that Etola left in his lunch box in 1980 before they were married. She wrote: "I can't wait to marry you and love you."

If they're not hiking, biking or golfing, the couple enjoys being around animals. Although they don't have children, their three poodles fill in the gap. Most recently, they've been taking their four-legged fur balls to weekly dog agility classes at K-9 Good Manners dog training facility in Villa Park.

"We always try something new," says Philip.

Cupid may be proud of himself for this union, but the Zinni marriage isn't without arguments and disagreements. The couple admits that sparks have been known to fly in their household.

"But arguing is a form of communication," says Etola. "And it's revealing if you stop and listen."

"Sometimes, I'll walk away and let her cool off and then come back and discuss it," adds Philip.

The couple believes that respect, communication and loyalty have kept their marriage in a happy state.

"We're very honest with each other," says Etola. "There's nothing we don't tell each other."

A sense of humor is another must in their relationship, they say. Once in Africa, Philip pretended to consider selling Etola to a Maasai warrior tribe chief in exchange for 10 cows in Kenya.

For her part, Etola can show her sense of humor artistically. If she's displeased with Philip, he may find an angry looking cartoon drawing in his belongings.

"I think to have a good marriage, you need a good sense of humor," says Etola. "And Phil is very funny. Sometimes, he can be endearing and annoying, but then you just got to start laughing."

For Philip and Etola, there is no secret to a happy marriage. A happy marriage doesn't have any secrets.

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